Alps – 4/4 – France

Day 17 – continued

Today was the start of heading home – and we’d thought it would be cool to start the day at the top of the mountains at the Little Saint Bernard Pass, and finish down on the Med – so that was our aim.  Motorways all the way unfortunately, but speed was of the essence.

We stopped briefly in La Rosière on the way down from the pass at a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the mountains there, and snapped some lazy looking Ferraris on the road down.

 

Continuing on, we stopped for lunch at a nice spot just off the motorway between Grenoble and Valence, on the river at Saint-Nazaire-en-Royans.  A large flat car park with riverside benches and views over the town’s aqueduct.  There are also caves here, and canoe rental right next to the car park – and we were treated to a jet ski display of sorts too!

 

On we went, with some pretty horrendous traffic around Valence and pretty much every toll booth on the way down south – thank god for air conditioning!

We got in a right muddle getting from Montpellier to our planned overnight at Palavas-les-Flots – but our getting lost did mean we drove past a whole load of flamingos!

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Flamingos on the Med

Very hot and bothered, we arrived at the private aire in Palavas – 20€ a night – which was more like some kind of gypsy camp – nearly every van taking up 2 spaces, and stuff and belongings and chairs and towels everywhere!  The facilities themselves, water facilities, showers and toilets, were great, but the aire itself was noisy (right on the main road) and not somewhere we would return to out of choice.

 

Anyway, there we were, so we parked up and walked into town along the very dirty canal.  Our plan had been to swim at the beach there, but having walked along a brown canal which came out right next to the beach, we decided otherwise, and just dipped our feet.  The town itself was very beachy touristy tat, bars, loud music, shops full of rubbish – not to our liking, but we had a drink in a bar and grabbed some bread at the local supermarket there before heading back to the van for a very hot night.  Maybe the heat clouded our judgement here, but Palavas was not a place we would return to.

 

Day 18

The next morning we upped and left as soon as we were ready!  Stopping at the nearby Carrefour supermarket for some cheapish petrol and supplies for the day.

Then back on the motorway and onwards to our lunch stop – Carcassonne.  But not before some pretty horrendous traffic jams – again, every toll booth along the way and just general holiday congestion.

Arriving at Carcassonne, we had a great view over the medieval city and its towers from the approach road.

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Carcassonne

We headed straight for the official AC area which is next to the campsite and well signposted – follow the signs, as some of the access roads are height limited.  It’s a great area!  Plenty of spaces, and many with good shade (it was boiling).  Barrier entrance (max. length 8m), and good double services which we didn’t use.  5€ for 5 hours seemed reasonable to us, so we parked up and set off into town.

 

There’s a nice, flat, shady path alongside a little stream into the main town, all signposted and with some nice views towards the city along the way.

 

It’s about 20 minutes walk to the main gate, where we were treated to an art installation on the walls – cool stuff!

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Art installation Carcassonne

It was lunch time, so we headed straight for the nearest creperie, and had some half decent crepe on a shady terrace.  After lunch we went to the tourist information office to get a map, and a walking book of the area (we intend to come back to the area in the future to visit the Cathay castles amongst other things), before having a walk around the old town and the walls – all very impressive.

 

We then headed to the basilica, which was quite a wow!  The most beautiful stained glass and rose windows inside, and lovely and cool of course too!

 

Then we wandered back along the stream to the van and headed onward.

Our overnight was one we’ve had our eye on for a while – we nearly stayed there on our last trip to the French Pyrenees, but didn’t quite make it.  It’s a little private aire near the village of Orriule.  It’s called the Aire de Camping Cars Labarraque, and its 9 places sit on top of a little hill overlooking the Pyrenees.  We weren’t sure whether there’d be space, but we were in fact only the 3rd van there, so no problem.  On arrival the extremely friendly owner turned up with tourist leaflets for the area, and to collect the 7€ fee.  Then we enjoyed the most gloriously warm evening meal and wine overlooking the foothills of the Pyrenees and stargazing – wonderful!

 

Day 19

Today it was really home time.  We headed off for one last stop for one last French breakfast, in Sauveterre-de-Béarn, somewhere we’ve been before.  Bakery up in the town (I’ll be honest, it wasn’t that good), and then drove down to the riverside where there were several other motorhomes who’d overnighted, and had breakfast on the picnic benches by the river.  A little stroll just to stretch our legs to the pretty half-bridge, and we were off home.

 

Our last stop, back in Spain, was an intentionally quick lunch stop by the motorway, but a useful one to know, in the town of Amorebieta – just before Bilbao – large, flat car park next to a large park with a restaurant – nothing exciting, but served our needs.

And that was it!  Back home!  Our longest trip done and dusted – one to remember, and everything ran pretty smoothly.  We just have to get used to being back in a flat again now!

 

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